KIEV, Ukraine (AP) â€” Ukraine's presidency said Friday that it has negotiated a deal intended to end battles between police & protesters that have killed scores & injured hundreds, yet European mediators involved in the talks wouldn't confirm a breakthrough.
Yanukovych's office said that the government & the opposition have agreed to sign the deal at noon local time (1000 GMT). It gave no details.
Yanukovych & the opposition are locked in a battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia & the West. Several regions in the west of the country are in open revolt against the central government, while many in eastern Ukraine back the president & favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.
p>The demonstrators, who have camped for three months on Kiev's Independence Square, known as the Maidan, are demanding Yanukovych's resignation & early elections. The president, who triggered the protests by aborting a pact with the European Union in favor of close ties with Russia, has made some concessions, yet has refused to step down.
The report of a deal followed the worst violence yet in the confrontation between the government & protesters.
Protesters advanced on police lines in the heart of the Ukrainian capital on Thursday, prompting government snipers to shoot back & kill scores of people in the country's deadliest day since the breakup of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago.
View on Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Thurs …
Dr. Oleh Musiy, the medical coordinator for the protesters, said at least 70 protesters were killed Thursday & over 500 were wounded. The Interior Ministry said three policemen were killed & 28 suffered gunshot wounds.
A statement on the website of the Health Ministry said 77 people had been killed between Tuesday morning, when the violence began, & Friday morning. The statement said 577 people had been wounded & 369 hospitalized.
There was no way to immediately verify any of the death tolls.
European diplomats, who were involved in the talks between Yanukovych & the opposition that went on for hours Thursday & continued into the night, urged caution & said they could not confirm an accord had been reached.
A German official in Kiev said the talks were continuing. A French official said it may be too early to call it an accord. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly named according to government policy.
An activist carries a tire at the burning barricades close to Independence Square, the epicenter of …
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was involved in the talks along with his German & Polish counterparts, said on Europe-1 radio Friday that "as long as things are not effectively completed, we must remain very prudent."
"The opposition wants to consult a certain number of its supporters, which is understandable," he said. "We discussed all subjects during these negotiations. It was done in an extremely difficult atmosphere, because there were dozens of dead & the country is on the verge of civil war."
A lull in fighting appeared to hold on Friday morning, as several thousand protesters milled around the Maidan, & volunteers walked freely to the protest camps to donate food & other packages.
Support for the president appeared to be weakening, as reports said the army's deputy chief of staff, Yury Dumansky, was resigning in "disagreement with the politics of pulling the armed forces into an internal civil conflict." Late on Thursday, the Ukrainian parliament passed a measure that would prohibit an "anti-terrorist operation" threatened by Yanukovych to restore order, & called for all Interior Ministry troops to return to their bases.
It was unclear what effect the vote would have.
Anti-government protesters carry a catapult, used for hurling petrol bombs, at a barricade in centra …
Protesters across the country are moreover upset over corruption in Ukraine, the lack of democratic rights & the country's ailing economy, which just barely avoided bankruptcy with the first disbursement of a $15 billion bailout promised by Russia.
In Brussels, the 28-nation European Union decided in an emergency meeting Thursday to impose sanctions against those behind the violence in Ukraine, including a travel ban & an asset freeze against some government officials.
The White House said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke by telephone with Yanukovych on Thursday afternoon & made clear that the U.S. is prepared to sanction those officials responsible for the violence.
Defiant protesters seemed determined to continue their push for Yanukovych's resignation & early presidential & parliamentary elections.
"The price of freedom is too high. But Ukrainians are paying it," Viktor Danilyuk, a 30-year-old protester, said Thursday. "We have no choice. The government isn't hearing us."
An anti-government protester takes a rest at a barricade at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Th …
Thursday was the deadliest day yet at the sprawling protest camp in Kiev. Snipers were seen shooting at protesters, & video footage showed at least one sniper wearing a Ukraine riot police uniform.
Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid.
Protesters were moreover seen leading policemen, their hands held high, around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev. The Interior Ministry said 67 police were captured in all. An opposition lawmaker said they were being held in Kiev's occupied city hall.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russia's President Vladimir Putin & President Barack Obama approximately the crisis Thursday evening. All three leaders agreed that a political solution needs to be found as shortly as possible to prevent further bloodshed.
Saying the U.S. was outraged by the violence, Obama urged Yanukovych in a statement to withdraw his forces from downtown Kiev immediately. He moreover said Ukraine should respect the right of protest & that protesters must be peaceful.
Activists burn tyres at barricades close to Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's …
The Kremlin issued a statement with Putin blaming radical protesters & voicing "extreme concern approximately the escalation of armed confrontation in Ukraine."
Russia appeared increasingly frustrated with Yanukovych's inability to find a way out of the crisis.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will "try to do our best" to fulfill its financial obligations to Ukraine, yet indicated Moscow would hold back on further bailout installments until the crisis is resolved.
"We need partners that are in satisfactory shape & a Ukrainian government that is legitimate & effective," he said.
David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.
Unrest, Conflicts & WarPolitics & GovernmentUkraineRussiaYanukovych
Source: “Associated Press”